Vat XiengThong

Vat XiengThong

This temple is not only the most beautiful in Luang Prabang, but arguably one of the most spectacular in the entire country. Built by King Setthathirath around 1560 it is a classic example of Luang Prabang style during the golden years of the Lane Xang Kingdom and it noted for its gracefully sloping roof and glass murals. The best time to visit, especially for photography, is in the morning.

The sim's sweeping roofs are considered the definition of the Luang Prabang style of architecture. The front gable ends are richly decorated with intricate gold designs on red ochre background. The columns are a rich lacquer-like black with gold stenciling.

Inside is rather dark and atmospheric. The walls and columns are also black with gold stencil, and the beams are red ochre with more gold stencils. A large Buddha image smiles benevolently down on all visitors. The back wall of the sim is decorated with brightly colored mirrored tiles in a mosaic representing the golden tree of life after which the temple is named.

Next to the sim is a small wiharn housing a one-of-a-kind reclining Buddha image. The statue dates from the temple's founding, and is much revered by locals. The walls are inlaid with many small gilded amulets, and the ceiling is also stenciled in gold on black.

Behind the sim are many chedis, as well as a small library also decorated with a beautiful mirrored tile mosaic. In the compound opposite the sim is a large ornate building housing the funeral chariot built for King Sisavong Vang in 1960. The carriage takes up almost the entire interior with its throne-like gilt frame. Placed on the carriage are duplicates of the caskets used to hold the late king, queen and
king's brother. The walls of this building are also decorated with colored mirrored tiles. Various paraphernalia is scattered around the room, and at the back are several standing Buddha images seemingly 'standing guard' over the royal family.

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